Adaptive reuse – Academy evening session

On Tuesday 21st March, our PLACED Academy participants learnt about ‘adaptive reuse’ in architecture through modelling with paper. Participants were asked to bring along an image of a building they really like, which they modelled and adapted to suit imagined new uses.

The session began with a presentation showcasing paper models, prototypes, artworks and products by practitioners from diverse sectors and industries, including Foldability Studio, MAKE architects and Issey Miyake. We considered simple techniques for manipulating paper to create three-dimensional forms, inspired by a video of architect Bjarke Ingels creating a quick paper model of his studio’s Serpentine Pavilion. Online resources and key reference texts were suggested for those interested in further developing their skills in this area, including ‘Folding Techniques for Designers: From Sheet to Form’ by Paul Jackson and ‘Architectural Modelmaking’ by Nick Dunn.

Participants were asked to create a paper model of their chosen building, inspired by the ideas and examples presented. Chosen buildings included the Petronas twin towers in Kuala Lumpur, the Ren building in China and the Antilia in India. We thought about how these buildings are currently used and how their architectural forms, materials and internal layouts allow specific activities to take place within them.

The second part of the session introduced ‘adaptive reuse’ as a key concept in architecture, referring to the process of aligning existing buildings and their environments to uses that more closely meet the needs of current (and future) communities. Exemplar projects were presented, including Astley Castle by Witherford Watson Mann architects, and more locally, the Liverpool Philharmonic by Caruso St. John architects. We discussed adaptive reuse and the circular economy, the importance of preserving cultural heritage and approaches to building more sustainably. Key reference texts were again suggested, including ‘UnDoing Buildings: Adaptive Reuse and Cultural Memory’ by Sally Stone.

Participants were asked to adapt their earlier models using differently coloured paper, proposing changes to the building and its setting to allow for new uses. Some added more storeys, extra rooms with special features or decided their internal uses would be different!

The session was also available as an at-home worksheet for those who couldn’t attend or would like to revisit these activities in their own time.

Thank you to those who attended and your contributions to discussions. We hope the session was interesting and introduced ideas that will become useful to your future studies, work or careers within architecture and beyond.